Pull Buoy and Paddles


The Toys, tools?

This August, 2016, I will be participating in the Casco Bay Swim Run event off the coast of Maine. This type of event is very popular in Europe and now making it’s way to the states, known as the Otilla. The Casco Bay Swim Run is a scaled down version of what’s happening in Europe, consisting of several run to swim segments totaling 11 miles of running and 4 miles of swimming. The Maine event consists of teams of two where you run and swim together but during the swim portion each team is also tethered together with a rope. Athletes are encouraged to use pull buoys and paddles for the swim. Also, since it’s a combination of run to swim and point to point, using a pull buoy allows each athlete to keep their sneakers on! That saves time as the run distance seems to vary from 3 miles to .25 miles. Keeping the sneakers on leaves athletes one less thing to carry and makes it easier getting in and out of the rocky shores of Maine much safer.

As I practice for this event with swimming, and running, and run/swim combos, I am finding it hard to make peace with the paddles. The pull buoy is a little challenging on the low back as I feel it is causing my spine to arch, so I really have to dial in to engaging my core muscles to keep me in my neutral spine alignment. The paddles Have been a more challenging adjustment. I find I am stroking much slower so I execute the correct recovery, hand entry, and catch. Thus far this experience has helped me feel how people with poor technique, or are fatigued or going mindlessly about it or all three, who are using paddles could get hurt.

First I noticed on the recovery that my finger tips where so close to the water that the tip of the paddle would catch on the water. Ouch number one. Okay, stay aware of clearance on recovery. Next was hand entry. The paddles just wanted to scoop up which 1) lifted my front body, and 2) put some downward pressure on that shoulder. However, if I entered my hand at an angle sloping down, the water caught my paddle and dug my hand down too deep. Oiy. I adapted with a slower hand entry. Then there was the catch. With the paddles I could really feel the pressure on my hand. It was so seductive to really give a good thrust. To really “PULL”. But resisting this desire I likened it to only pushing down on the pedals when cycling, leaving out the lifting up. Or It would be like paddling a SUP or kayak and only pulling back with the low hand and not pressing forward with the high hand.

Plus all the pulling would eventualy leave me without shoulders. Instead, keeping my gentle stroke, I continued as always to focus on the high side- the arm extending. As the hand/arm reached over and then around the water to the point I could feel the pressure on the forearm and paddle, I channeled my high side energy forward. Sliding forward with gravity seemed more effective than just pushing the water to the back of the lake! Combinig the catch with gravity was smooth. And again, much kinder to the shoulders. Playing with what felt like equal effort of sliding forward and pressing the water with the paddle, it all seemed kinder, gentler, connected.

I will take that.

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